Family slams Flair Airlines over eight-day flight delay that threatened Christmas

A family says Flair Airlines nearly ruined their Christmas holiday and could have cost them their jobs after it cancelled their flight last minute, then rebooked them more than a week later.

Disaster was ultimately averted after the family contacted Global News, and Flair confirmed late Friday that it would get them on an earlier flight.

Ndaba Zulu and his mother Patricia Defreitas thought they were doing everything right when they booked a trip from Calgary to Vancouver to visit family ahead of the holidays.

The duo intentionally booked their return flight to Calgary for Dec. 18, thinking they would beat the holiday rush and have plenty of time to get back for holiday gatherings and scheduled work shifts.

Click to play video: 'What to know when it comes to winter travel'

What to know when it comes to winter travel

But things went sour when Zulu got a notification on the 18th that the flight was cancelled.

Story continues below advertisement

“In my head I was like OK, I’ll get a flight tomorrow,” he said.

That wasn’t the case. The earliest he was able to rebook was the 21st, but following multiple delays on Thursday that flight was also cancelled.

The earliest the airline would rebook the pair was on Dec. 26. Zulu said staff refused to book them on an earlier flight with a competitor.

“They immediately told me that no, don’t work like that. It’s just crazy to me,” he said. “You can’t even provide me the simple service of getting me from point A to point B.”

As a result of the delay, Zulu said he is missing several important family gatherings over the holiday period.

Both he and his mother will also miss work.

Get the latest National news.

Sent to your email, every day.

“We had holiday plans, we had a dinner scheduled for the 23rd, we’re going to be missing that, as well as my partner’s family’s Christmas dinner we do every year on Christmas Eve,” he said. “I have to miss four days of work before this rebooking for the 26th, my managers were struggling to find other staff to fill my shift, I actually had a shift this morning they were unable to fill … so my coworkers are probably struggling right now.”

Click to play video: 'Canada’s air travel industry ‘much better prepared’ for winter holidays: Flair CEO'

Canada’s air travel industry ‘much better prepared’ for winter holidays: Flair CEO

Defreitas, who works in the health care, said she was devastated to learn she won’t be able to make her Christmas Eve shift.

Story continues below advertisement

“I have about 28 people I have to look after at night alone. And this is time for Christmas, everybody is out, on vacation. It’s not easy to find someone,” she said. “I am devoted to my job and I take that job seriously because I look after people, and those people I look after depend on me.”

While the two believe their employers will be accommodating, they say others in their situations may not be so lucky.

They are, fortunately, able to stay the extra eight days with family in Vancouver, but say if they hadn’t been the expense of a hotel in the city could have been crippling.

Gabor Lukacs, president of watchdog group Air Passenger Rights, said because of a loophole smaller airlines aren’t required to accommodate travellers with another flight under Canada’s Air Passenger Protection Regulations.

Click to play video: 'Consumer Matters: Lost luggage Flair Airline fiasco'

Consumer Matters: Lost luggage Flair Airline fiasco

Those regulations mandate that if a flight is cancelled because of factors within the airline’s control, bigger carriers like Air Canada and WestJet either rebook a passenger on their own network within nine hours or buy them a ticket with a competitor.

Story continues below advertisement

Not so with smaller, budget carriers like Flair, he said.

“Sometimes and airline will offer to rebook you in two weeks,” he said. “Unfortunately this has not been litigated yet, but offering someone a flight two weeks later is not something that would meet the intent of the obligation to rebook the passenger on the next available flight.”

Lukacs said the loophole doesn’t mean smaller carriers are off the hook, but it does mean passengers like Zulu would likely have to go to court to get compensated — a complex and potentially costly endeavour.

Click to play video: 'B.C. travellers take Air Canada to task for treatment of disabled passengers'

B.C. travellers take Air Canada to task for treatment of disabled passengers

In an initial statement, Flair said the Dec. 18 flight was cancelled after crews discovered “an issue with equipment crucial for safety.”

It went on to say its ultra-low cost model means it does not have idle aircraft to add extra capacity if needed.

Story continues below advertisement

“Unfortunately, the busy holiday travel season means we had less options available to accommodate disrupted passengers,” the statement reads. “We regret any disruptions to passengers’ travel plans, especially during this holiday period.”

After the Global News story went to air Friday, the company confirmed that it had arranged for Zulu and Defreitas to fly back to Calgary on Saturday.

But it may be the last time either of them use the airline.

“I will never book with Flair Airlines again after dealing with extra baggage fees, cancellations, delay, lack of accommodation — it’s just something I don’t ever want to deal with again,” Zulu said.

“I am really frustrated, and I know it doesn’t really help, what is done is done, but it’s really disappointing,” Defreitas said. “Why are they taking people’s money and they don’t deliver the service, is how I am looking at it?”


&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Previous Story

Warriors 129-118 Wizards (23 Dec, 2023) Final Score

Next Story

This Perfect Cheesecake Will Make You Feel Like a Pro Baker

Latest from Blog

0 $0.00